On Thursday morning my mobile phone started receiving messages before 6.00a.m. telling me the news that Newsome Mills was ablaze and that nearby residents had been evacuated from their homes. I saw the community rally round really quickly as St Johns Church and Newsome Scout Hut opened their doors to residents. They got the tea and coffee going and breakfast for those people who were temporarily moved from their homes. Newsome Village Store donated food for evacuated residents and the Fire Service and Police were caring and professional helping some particularly vulnerable residents who lived nearby. Kirklees Emergency Planning and Building Control were on the scene early on dealing with their responsibilities for the community and the building itself. The local response to the immediate crisis has shown the community and local services at their very best.
The question is what happens next. The structure of the Mills itself is severely compromised and as I write this it is expected that the Mill Building may have to be demolished. Hopefully the iconic clock tower will remain. There have been 2 controversial Planning matters associated with the site. The private owners of Newsome Mills itself have been reluctant to develop on the site due to the costs of converting the mill which is/was a listed building. The private owners of the land at Hart Street near the Mills have sought to develop the site on a number of occasions. The fact that the land is part of the historic setting of Newsome Mills has been one of a number of reasons that local people have opposed development there. With the suspected arson of the Newsome Mills site we will have to see what happens next.
For now we need to take stock and let the investigation into the blaze be carried out by the appropriate services. This has been a truly awful year for the people of Newsome with the Hunters Waste site going up in flames, the vandalism and burning of Newsome Community Bowling Club's buildings and now Newsome Mills itself going up in flames. If, as I expect, Newsome Mills turns out to be arson then all these fires will be the result of the actions of people who have no regard for the local community or the people who live there. Let’s hope for a better 2017.